Scottish adult literacy levels on par with best

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Scotland’s adult literacy levels are on a par with the world’s most advanced economies, according to a new national survey published today.

The Scottish Survey of Adult Literacies (SSAL) 2009, the ‘most robust’ study to cover adult literacy to date, shows the vast majority, 73.3 per cent of Scots have an internationally recognised level of skill needed in a contemporary society while only 3.6 per cent have ‘very poor’ literacy skills.


Scotland’s adult literacy levels are on a par with the world’s most advanced economies, according to a new national survey published today.

The Scottish Survey of Adult Literacies (SSAL) 2009, the ‘most robust’ study to cover adult literacy to date, shows the vast majority, 73.3 per cent of Scots have an internationally recognised level of skill needed in a contemporary society while only 3.6 per cent have ‘very poor’ literacy skills.

The results will inform the Scottish Government’s Literacy Action Plan, due for publication in the autumn, which will outline the next steps to further raise standards of literacy from early years through to adult learning.

The plan will build on the importance of literacy development within Curriculum for Excellence, which seeks to address the legacy from education systems in years gone by, and the recent Big Plus campaign to improve skills across Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell said:

“Literacy is an essential skill to unlock learning and lead to improved life chances, so today’s publication, which highlights robust levels of literacy in Scotland, should be welcomed.

“However, as encouraging as the findings are, we will not be complacent on this issue. There are a small number of people facing serious challenges with literacy in their daily lives and the Scottish Government is working to address the issue of social and economic exclusion faced by adults with low literacy skills through the upcoming Literacy Action Plan.

“The Plan aims to raise standards of teaching and learning across the country so we can focus on ensuring children, young people, and adults have the right levels of literacy, for learning, life and work.

“To see literacy levels in Scotland rated on a par with many of the world’s leading economies gives us modest satisfaction. However, this Government knows that much more can be done, and is working to ensure no individual is left behind by not having such vital skills.”

Key findings include:

  • 73.3 per cent of the Scottish working age population have a level of skills recognised internationally as appropriate for a contemporary society
  • 26.7 per cent may face occasional challenges and constrained opportunities due to their literacy skills. Within this quarter, 3.6 per cent face serious challenges in their literacy practices

The Scottish Government has allocated £3.35 million to improve skills for the adult literacies and Community Learning and Development (CLD) workforce between 2009-11.